From the poem Namby-Pamby (1726) by Henry Carey, a satire on the sentimental pastorals of the poet Ambrose Phillips
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namby-pamby (comparative more namby-pamby or namby-pambier, superlative most namby-pamby or namby-pambiest)
- Insipid and sentimental.
- Lacking vigor or decisiveness; spineless; wishy-washy.
- 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair […], London: Bradbury and Evans […], published 1848, →OCLC:
- […] she was still, as heretofore, a namby-pamby milk-and-water affected creature […]
insipid and sentimental
lacking vigor or decisiveness
namby-pamby (plural namby-pambies)
- One who is insipid, sentimental, or weak.
- 1725, Capt. Gordon [Henry Carey], Namby-Pamby: Or a Pangyric on the New Versification Addressed to A⸺ P⸺ Esq., →OCLC:
- Namby Pamby’s doubly Mild,
Once a Man, and twice a Child;
To his Hanging-Sleeves restor’d
Now he foots it like a Lord;
Now he Pumps his little Wits;
Sh—ing Writes and Writing Sh—s,[sic]
- Talk or writing which is weakly sentimental or affectedly pretty.
- 1892 , Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Life and writings of Addison”, in Lord Macaulay's Essays, page 790:
- Another of Addison’s favourite companions was Ambrose Phillipps, a good Whig and a middling poet, who had the honour of bringing into fashion a species of composition which has been called, after his name, Namby-Pamby.
- 1999, Nicola Diane Thompson, quoting Marie Corelli (c. 1905), Victorian Women Writers and the Woman Question, page 246:
- She boasts to Bentley that the Prince of Wales admires her books for the “fearless courage” of her opinions. “He said, ‘There is no namby-pamby nonsense about you – you write with a man’s pen, and I should think you would fight your enemies like a man!’ These words delighted me, for to be ‘namby-pamby’ would be a horror to me,” she writes.
- (weak person): nestle-cock, sissy, softy; see also Thesaurus:milksop
one who is insipid, sentimental, or weak
namby-pamby (third-person singular simple present namby-pambies, present participle namby-pambying, simple past and past participle namby-pambied)
- To coddle.
- 2012, Alan Tyers, Who Moved My Stilton?: The Victorian Guide to Getting Ahead in Business:
- While we business men of Britain have little time for this sort of namby-pambying towards the next generation, who are often feckless, tearful, small, dirty or all of the above, there is no doubt that youths have their place in commerce.
- ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “namby-pamby”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
- ^ “namby-pamby”, in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition, Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, →ISBN.